If you know me personally you know I have a soft spot for Greece and more specific: the island of Crete. I actually have been experiencing some ‘homesickness’ when it comes to Kriti, so reviewing Schiffer’s Minoan Tarot was timed well. This deck is completely based on the Ancient Cretan civilization and incorporates years of research. When I did the Sneak peek some time ago I was already enthusiastic, wondered how it would read, what would be changed. And now you can read all about it here. Πάμε!
The Minoan Tarot cards come in that typical Schiffer box: two stacks of deck, full color thick paperback on top, magnetic lid kit. It’s quality and good looking. If you showcase your decks this is one that’ll make you happy again. One small complaint. I really like the look and feel of Schiffer kits, but that double stack is starting to get on my nerve. After I had removed the plastic bands from the cards I kept having trouble closing the lid. I was forced to take out the inner carton and let the cards ‘swerve’ inside the box until I can find a nice bag. Like I said: their kits look amazing, they are worth every penny, but practically this part is really less than ideal.
So, what about the deck then? The Minoan Tarot looks exactly like you’d expect if you know a bit of that period and have seen fresco’s and mosaics. It has the same coloring as the Minoans used for their art on floors and walls or even pottery. Shades of terracotta, aquamarine, deep gold/yellow and sky blue, combined with the green of its hills. Women were always portrayed with white skin, the men with a reddish tan. This comes back in Perry’s drawings.
The deck has a double border. You have the art, a border looking like mosaic tiling directly around that, then the the title of the card in black, set on a soft yellow. This shortly followed by another ‘floating’ mosaic line and this all is enclosed by a thin border in the same soft yellow. It will be no surprise I am going to say I can do without that yellow border, but I really do like -shocker – the tiling border (for lack of a better word). It makes every card in The Minoan Tarot look like its own fresco, as if you’ve just uncovered a mosaic from Knossos. (For the borderectomy people out there: yes you would be able to cut it without ruining the backs)
Square & laminated
The Minoan deck’s cards are a little glossy. A little extra shuffling before actual use is need. Yes, I know a lot of tarot readers simply hate laminated cards and won’t even buy the deck just because. If you’re hesitant because of it all I can say is: the stickiness subsides very quickly. While I think a matte finish would have complimented the art a lot more – the shininess isn’t annoying. What *is* a fail in my book is the form: The Minoan Tarot has square edges. Sure, it makes it look like a mosaic panel even more, but every time I use this deck my hands hurt.
If you don’t have too many qualms about adapting your decks a very small corner cutter could come to the rescue. Just make a tiny round edge in that thin yellow border I talked about earlier and you could spare your hands (if you do a borderectomy you would have to cut in the ‘tiling’. That would be a shame). The backs, sky blue with weaponry on the back, won’t suffer under a little cut. By the way, the Minoan Tarot is reversible. Perry actually included Rx in her concept (it works without too, no worries) and gave instructions to use a Rx card as a block, or negative aspect.
Pip deck & Visconti
The Minoan Tarot isn’t really easy to fit within an existing pattern. It’s no RWS/WCS (Strength is 11 and Justice is 8), no Thoth and no TdM. It’s a pip-deck and the minors have suit symbols with something extra. The Minor Arcana definitely has no scenics, but not exactly moody minors either. And there are more differences. Perry examined the concept of each card and tried to see that core from a Minoan artist’s perspective. That’s how she translated each card into the Minoan symbolism and the way their civilization was set up. This means that every card image is modeled after or based on Minoan art, which will definitely make many cards hard to identify at first sight (Majors and Minors). Iconography simply has more of a static feel to it than another style. It all fits with the style but for a tarot reader it can make it harder to read.
History & culture of the Minoans
Reflection in the Minoan Tarot
While historians spread the rule of the Minoans over a large period of time, approximately 2600BC until 1150BC the Minoan Tarot mostly focuses on the period in between 2000BC when a King became the focus of the Cretan political system until the fall of the Empire in 1150/1100 BC due to incursions of the Mycenaens and later the Dorians. The island was a flourishing nation before that. Minoans didn’t focus on building a great army and conquer lands, but instead the center of their civilization revolved around trade and art especially. Pottery, frescoes and coloring, it all comes back in the tarot deck.
Linear B symbols
If you really want to dive into the history and culture, and especially their spiritual rituals, it is best to buy Laura Perry’s Ariadne’s Thread. It can be seen as a second and much deeper companion to this deck, but is basically also a book on culture and spirituality of Ancient Crete.
The fact that the artist incorporated the point of view of her Minoan colleagues also resulted in another adaptation, to reflect the more balanced social roles in Ancient Crete: there are 6 courts instead of 4 (total of 86 cards). Before anyone can say: then it is no longer a tarot…the designer rightfully points out that she took this idea from the Cary-Yale Visconti Tarot. One of the oldest tarot decks in existence, also with 6 courts instead of 4. It so happened to perfectly coincide with her theme.
Adapted courts and suits
So, who are these extra courts? Other than Youth (Page), Maiden (Knight/Princess), Lord (King) and Lady (Queen), The Minoan Tarot has two more spiritually inclined titles: Priest and Priestess. Spiritual leaders were seen as gods during their rituals, so as part of the theme it is a reasonable addition. Despite my understanding, I have yet to figure out the new dynamics of this change. It’s obvious Priest(ess) incorporates maturity, wisdom. I think over time that wisdom will show me the way in this deck. Laura Perry has created the Minoan Tarot on the tarot side in large part with The Fool’s Journey in mind. So much so that she expanded the whole jounrey-thing into 4 extra ones. Elemental Journeys, based on the suits. These can be used for personal journey’s, meditation, growth. In the companion you can read all about the journey meaning for each card.
Another important change, other than the fact you most likely won’t immediately recognize all the imagery, is the renaming. First of, the Major Arcana. I was surprised to see Magician became High Priest, whereas 5 Hierophant is now Adept, also a religious leader. 9 has become Labyrinth and 10 The Wheel is now Fate. 12 is renamed Sacrifice, 14 Balance. 15 is another surprise where The Devil is suddenly called The Minotaur. When you read the companion the changes make sense though.
Luckily Schiffers Kit comes with a full color paperback. It is necessary and I am happy to see that the artists authored it in a decent way. She explains what you see, why she added this and how she envisioned the card. You’ll need that info. For those Majors, for the art that isn’t always easily reducible to a foundational tarot deck like TdM or WCS, and also definitely for the new symbolism and the name of the suits. This simply isn’t a ‘read straight out of the box’ deck. It’s one of those with the famous learning curves. Another example: the suit that’s called Daggers and has those in the cards too isn’t actually the Sword suit. So, let go of certain knowledge and expectations and follow the book at first. What *will* help you in the beginning are the colors. Daggers is red, so there the connection to Wands is suddenly clear ( Wands=Fire=Red). Same goes for Rhytons (Cups=Water=Blue), Labryses (Swords=Air=Gold, using your mind was much more important in this civilization) and Horns (Pentacles=Earth=Green).
The Minoan Tarot is unique in many ways. As always the reading experience is subjective, but this deck is so immersed in Minoan culture and has so many adaptations I think (especially) tarot novices will get dispirited if they try to read the Minoan Tarot without some studying upfront (or with the kit companion next to them). If you like this type of themed deck (Egyptian, mythology etc) it is clearly one of the better ones out there. Absolutely kudos to the designer for creating such a gorgeous, consistent tarot. Just read the companion so you will now what is *on* the image exactly and how she sees every card. On top of that I would also advise to buy Perry’s second companion. Huh? Yes, there’s one.
It is called Ariadne’s Thread. Awakening the Wonders of Ancient Minoans in our Modern Lives. Ariadne’s Thread gives you so much more in regards of Cretan & Minoan culture, their spiritual rituals and more importantly: the tools and symbols you see on this deck. Not only will it help you create a fundamental knowledge of the symbolism of the deck, but also – if you care for such things – give you a lot of insight into the history of the Minoans and its society. You’’ do great on that next boring birthday 😉 (Or who knows: Crete might be your next destination…can I come with?)
Conclusion: unique, quality, advanced
In conclusion I can honestly say this isn’t a simple “I like Crete, so let’s plaster the theme onto a tarot deck”-tarot. No, it is obvious that Perry has done her homework and very, very well. The Minoan Tarot breathes the culture of the Ancient Cretans in every way and is very consistent. I also believe it is clear the artists knows her tarot and therefore the changes she made make sense and fit. In my professional opinion it is a quality deck with beautiful art, though better suited to advanced readers. More specifically: readers with a decent basis in tarot who do not mind doing a little extra study for a new deck to really comprehend the many layers of Minoan symbolism.
It’s definitely not for everyone, but its learning curve is already made easier with a decent companion and the extra writings by its designer (next to Ariadne’s Thread – hopefully I’ll be able to write something on the book soon – Perry also published Labrys & Horns), so no need to visit Google and/or library. It’s absolutely one of the better themed decks out there and save a few (minor?) quirks I believe this will become one of those decks with its own fanclub. I am not sure yet if I will be a part of that. But as a historian and tarot reader with a love for Crete I at least reviewed this deck with a smile on my face.
|Author or artist||Publisher||Publication|
|Laura Perry||Schiffer Books||January 2017|
ps. My camera is on its last legs, so coloring is a little off. If you want to see the whole picture, click right mouse-button and open in new window. That way you’ll see the entire and a larger picture. Looking into a better solution for imagery.